Jordan v. Lyles, 455 S.W.3d 785 (Tex. App.—Tyler 2015, no pet.).


Power of Attorney


Agent was accused of breach of fiduciary duty by placing a significant portion of Principal’s property into accounts naming her as a pay on death beneficiary or giving her survivorship rights.


The appellate court first addressed whether Principal’s heirs had standing to bring a suit for breach of fiduciary duty.  The court explained that normally an heir lacks standing because the principal’s personal representative usually has the exclusive right to bring the suit.  However, because Principal’s estate was handled with a muniment of title, there was no executor appointed and thus the heirs had standing.


The jury awarded the heirs damages for breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference with inheritance rights.  However, the court granted Agent’s motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.  Agent argued that the court was correct because the transactions were fair to Principal.  However, Agent was unable to prove that she specifically discussed the transactions with Principal and informed him of the material facts relating to them.  Agent unsuccessfully claimed she was mere a scrivener when she competed various actions for Principal rather than acting in a fiduciary capacity.  Accordingly, the appellate court reversed and reinstated the jury verdict.


Moral:  An agent owes fiduciary duties to the principal at all times, even when technically not acting under the authority granted by the power of attorney.  Thus, an agent should act with the utmost degree of loyalty to the principal and avoid being involved in any transaction which could potentially benefit the agent.